The Pricipality’s Great Upset

30 March 2023

It was a great upset; an unknown Englishman won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix.

The first race, held on 14 April 1929, was won by William Grover-Williams (using the pseudonym ‘Williams’), driving a works Bugatti Type 35B. It was an invitation-only event, but not all of those invited decided to attend.

The Bugatti was painted in a distinctive shade of green.

The upset was caused because the firm favourites were Philip Etancelin (also in a Bugatti 35B) and Rudolf Caracciola in a 7.1-litre Mercedes SSK.

The first Monaco Grand Prix was made possible by the efforts of M. Antony Noshes, the well-known Monegasque tycoon, with the support of Prince Louis II and local motoring hero M. Louis Chiron.

Mr Noghes invited sixteen drivers to compete for a Grand Prize of 100,000 francs. The winner would be the man completing 100 laps of the specially-designed street circuit in the fastest time.

Despite the superhuman efforts of Caracciola, Williams won the prize. A remarkable feat given that his first experience of the course was during the morning practice session on 14 April. The day of the race itself.

Subsequently, the Bugatti factory expressed an interest in engaging Mr Williams’s driving services.